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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won in Gujarat. In Himachal Pradesh, the picture is pretty much on expected lines. But it is Gujarat that had attracted global attention because many believed that the way to Delhi in 2019 goes via Gandhinagar, and perhaps, rightly so.
In Gujarat, the BJP’s victory needs to be seen against a particular setting. It started with a huge anti-incumbency of some three decades.
One must remember that even in 1990, the BJP had got a resounding mandate and later it had become a part of the Chimanbhai Patel government.
Secondly, it was the Patidar factor. Thirdly, the fact that unlike in the past, a leader like Narendra Modi, who’s so close to the hearts of all Gujaratis, was neither ruling in the state nor was expected to rule the state as its chief minister. Gujarat verdict needs to be analysed against this setting.
Cong’s Caste-Based Campaign Pushed ‘Vikas’ on the Back-Burner
There are takeaways for both the BJP as well as the Congress, and are very clear. It would be educative to analyse them dispassionately. The Prime Minister was bang on when he said that winning Gujarat back-to-back for more than half a dozen times, on the plank of development, is a historic achievement in itself.
By now, Congress hopefully must have realised that ridiculing development was an absolute misadventure! One can’t forget that ‘vikas’ or development was evident in Gujarat all through these years.
Dynamism shown by the Gujarat government on the front of agricultural development through an efficient water supply mechanism laid down for irrigating fields, its emphasis on infrastructure development in cities like Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Surat and Vadodara, remarkably innovative efforts towards promoting institutional delivery and arresting the dropout rate of schoolgoing girls, are just few examples of development governance of the successive BJP governments.
And yet, shrill and irresponsibly conducted caste and community centric campaign by the Congress party pushed the development agenda to the margins, and in the process, identity issues were allowed to occupy disproportionate mindspace! As a consequence, demands for caste quotas, followed by promises beyond the constitutional provisions, became a rallying point for some groups.
Development: Key to Better Future
One of the crucial lessons from Gujarat is about facing the challenge of making the development narrative so very powerful that the issues related to caste and community are automatically pushed to the periphery.
Perhaps, this needs a slew of measures from development literacy, development media and development tourism, to make people realise that development is the only key to better future. In a state like Gujarat, where for most of the young voters it is difficult to imagine the absence of development – whether it is the shortage of electricity or lack of infrastructure – extra measures are always required to underscore the importance of development.
Those who have not experienced darkness look forward to more efforts in order to realise the importance of light!
Reaching Out to an Aspirational India
What is also required is a new communication strategy. Over the years, people have realised both the enormity as well as the limitations of social media. New age campaign demands new platforms for effective engagement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly embarked upon a campaign for #PositiveIndia and this positivity alone has the strength to appeal to a new, emerging and an aspirational India.
In the advertising world, they say, experiential media is the in thing. It’s more and more difficult to succeed through traditional campaign strategies. Advertising experts are now realising that with the amount of clutter one has got to cut through, one requires smarter but authentic ways to catch popular imagination.
May be, it is high time electoral campaigns are so devised that they evolve a new development-experiential media.
Ingredients of an Electoral Victory
An amalgamation of various factors determine the character of electoral verdicts. In Gujarat, the BJP’s highly-motivated party cadres, supported by a vibrant organisational network, played a key role.
Conscious of the fact that only a vibrant party organisation can deliver, the BJP is more capable of meeting the challenge. The BJP’s politics of performance has two principal ingredients – a leader with an absolute purity of purpose and an organisation with motivated cadres.
Taking Forward the Development Narrative
Development and good governance are the twin themes that have the potential of doing away with any sense of uncertainty and insecurity, whether real or imaginary, especially among the marginal sections of society.
Happily, for the BJP with its organisational network intact, this is comparatively easy to evolve a new and more effective way of communicating with the voters. Pt Deendayal Upadhyay had rightly emphasised on the importance of cultivating popular opinion through voters’ education – Lokmat Parishkar!
Also, in Uttar Pradesh only few months ago, the BJP has demonstrated that the development narrative can beat those exploiting caste-community centric campaign. But unlike UP, in the next round of elections where BJP is already in power for years, caste-community forces are going to further sharpen their weapons and hence the challenge can never be undermined.
And one knows very well that in Amit Shah, BJP has a president who takes challenges head on, with a catch the bull by the horn approach. This makes it more “advantage BJP”!
(Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is a Member of Parliament representing Maharashtra in the Rajya Sabha. He is also the serving national vice president of Bharatiya Janata Party. He can be reached @vinay1011. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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